Each year millions of Americans are affected by the flu, a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. Symptoms can be mild to severe and include serious complications resulting in hospitalizations and even deaths. Some people, like those over 65 years of age, young children, and people with certain health conditions, are at high risk of serious flu complications.
The flu spreads from person to person through droplets produced by coughing, sneezing or talking. It may also be spread through exposure to surfaces and objects contaminated with flu virus.
Most people show symptoms within one to 1 to 4 days after exposure. An infected person can spread the virus to others starting one day before symptoms appear and up to 5-7 days later. Not all people infected with the flu virus have symptoms, but they can still spread it to others.
Symptoms of the flu generally come on suddenly and may include:
The best way to protect yourself from the flu is with a yearly flu shot. The CDC recommends that all persons aged 6 months and older get an annual flu shot, with rare exceptions. Flu season generally begins in October and can last as late as May, but timing and duration can vary from year to year. Peak activity tends to occur between December and February. It takes about 2 weeks for the body to develop immunity after vaccine administration, so it’s best to get a flu shot sometime in the fall, but by the end of October if possible.
Additional tips to protect yourself during flu season
Both COVID-19 and flu can have varying degrees of signs and
symptoms, ranging from no symptoms (asymptomatic) to severe
symptoms. Common symptoms that COVID-19 and flu share include:
• Fever or feeling feverish/chills
• Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
• Fatigue (tiredness)
• Sore throat
• Runny or stuffy nose
• Muscle pain or body ache
• Vomiting or diarrhea (more common in children)
Prevention is key to staying healthy during flu season, Rite Aid has you covered.
Find your cold and flu essentials to treat your symptoms.
Everyone 6 months and older should receive a yearly flu vaccine. The flu vaccine contains an inactivated flu virus. The flu vaccine causes your body to make antibodies that fight the flu, decreasing your risk of becoming sick with the flu. Since the virus in the vaccine is inactivated they cannot cause the flu. The flu vaccine is recommended annually, as immunity decreases over time. It takes about two weeks for the vaccine to be effective, so it is important to get the vaccine before the flu starts spreading in your area.
There are several different types of flu vaccines available. Rite Aid offers the following flu vaccines:
Quadrivalent flu vaccine - this vaccine protects against two Influenza A strains and two Influenza B strains.
After age 65, many people have a decline in immune system function, making them less responsive to a standard-dose flu vaccine. For those 65 years of age and older, there are two types of flu vaccines that are designed to provide a greater immune response.
Adjuvanted Quadrivalent flu vaccine - this vaccine contains an ingredient that provides a stronger immune response.
High-dose Quadrivalent flu vaccine - this vaccine contains four times more antigen than standard dose flu vaccines.
It is important to note that the CDC does not express a preference for one type of vaccine over another.
Ask your Rite Aid pharmacist which vaccine is right for you.
Common side effects of the flu vaccine include: soreness, redness or swelling at the injection site, fever, headache, nausea, and muscle aches.
Less common side effects may include: fainting, Guillain-Barre syndrome (a rare disorder that causes muscle weakness or paralysis due to damage to nerve cells by the immune system), and allergic reactions.
Egg Allergy: Eggs are used in the production of some flu vaccines. Those who experience only hives after eating eggs or egg-containing products may still receive any flu vaccine formulation appropriate for their age and health status. Those with a more severe egg allergy should only receive a flu shot in a medical facility that is prepared to handle a severe allergic reaction (difficulty breathing, swelling of the eyes or lips, wheezing).
Yes. Those who have been vaccinated may still get the flu. This can be caused by one or more of the following:
In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reviews the flu data and determines the combination of viruses most likely to prevent the flu each year. Despite the amount of research that goes into the flu vaccine composition, the virus is constantly changing.
Therefore, the vaccine may not be a perfect match to the current circulating virus. The good news is, those who have been vaccinated generally have a milder case of flu than those who are unvaccinated.
People diagnosed with the flu or with suspected flu infection and at high risk of serious flu complications should seek treatment immediately.
There are prescription medications available that can lessen fever and flu symptoms, shorten the length of flu illness, and reduce the risk of complications. It is best if they are taken within 2 days of the start of flu symptoms.
The four FDA approved prescription medications for the treatment of flu are oseltamivir phosphate (Tamiflu®), zanamivir (Relenza®), peramivir (Rapivab®), and baloxavir marboxil (Xofluza®).
Common flu symptoms may include fever or chills, muscle aches, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headache and fatigue/tiredness. If you have flu symptoms and are in a high risk group, contact your healthcare provider. If you are not in a high risk group but have symptoms, get plenty of rest and drink fluids, manage symptoms with Over-the-counter (OTC) medications when appropriate.
OTC medications like acetaminophen and ibuprofen can be used to treat fever, headache, body aches, and sore throat.
Products containing dextromethorphan (a cough suppressant) and/or guaifenesin (an expectorant) are helpful for cough.
Runny/stuffy nose symptoms can be treated with an antihistamine and/or decongestant. There are several combination products available to treat flu symptoms.
Always read the product label to understand the active ingredient(s), uses, warnings, doses, and directions. For questions and help with product selection, consult your Rite Aid pharmacist or other healthcare professional.
When you are sick, you should stay at home, wash your hands often and avoid contact with other people to minimize the chance of infecting others. You may return to work, school, shopping, etc. once you have been without a fever for 24 hours (without the use of fever reducing medications).
CDC recommends that certain age groups are protected from other potentially harmful diseases.